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Does your dog eat dirt? Anyone who has ever lived with a dog knows that quirky behaviors are part of the package, and eating dirt can certainly be considered quirky.
The important questions are why do dogs eat dirt, is it okay, and is it normal? While the answers may be just as confusing as the questions, here’s everything you need to know about dogs eating dirt.
Why do Dogs Eat Dirt?
According to Dr. David Dilmore, DMV, of Denver, Colorado, dogs who eat dirt have either a medical or behavioral issue.
Your dog may not be getting the minerals and vitamins they need for optimum health, or your pooch may have underlying health issues that need to be addressed.
If your dog only eats dirt occasionally, it may be they just have an upset stomach and are trying to sooth their indigestion.
Behavioral issues range from frustration and boredom, to simply liking the taste of dirt. Let’s take a look at each of these so you are better equipped to figure it out for yourself.
Your Dog Might Not Be Eating Healthy
Most high-quality commercial dog foods contain all the nutrients your dog needs to live a healthy and happy life. If your dog is on a commercial diet, then they are likely getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals.
If however, you are feeding your dog low-quality food or are making the food yourself, nutritional deficiencies are more common. Switch to a good commercial dog food to see if the issue goes away.
Your Dog Might Have Underlying Health Issues
If your dog is eating a healthy diet, the next step is to rule out underlying health issues. Routine blood work will usually rule out serious medical conditions affecting the body’s organs.
Two potential problems in which eating dirt are symptoms are Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.
These serious conditions cannot be diagnosed with a routine blood test. You should request cTLI & Cobalamin/Folate tests if you suspect either of these uncommon diseases.
Dirt Could Have Health Benefits
Just like people, dogs sometimes suffer from indigestion or upset tummies. Most dirt contains quantities of clay that can ease your dog’s discomfort.
Clay has other health benefits, and depending on the type found in your soil, can be used to get rid of parasites or detoxify the body.
If your dog occasionally eats dirt, it could be that they’re taking advantage of the healing power of clay. If your dog eats dirt more often, there’s probably another underlying issue.
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Your Dog May Be Eating Dirt out of Boredom or Frustration
Dogs, like people, sometimes exhibit strange behaviors when they don’t get the stimulation, exercise, and attention they need.
Dogs need a purpose to exist, and when their needs aren’t being met, they may resort to destructive or strange behaviors, like eating dirt.
This is true of all dogs, but especially of high-energy and working breeds, like Labradors. If you suspect that your dog is eating dirt out of boredom, consider the following:
- Is your dog getting enough exercise? As a general rule, a healthy adult Labrador will need at least an hour of exercise each day. For a more detailed look at exercise requirements, read How Much Exercise Does a Labrador Need?
- Is your dog getting enough mental stimulation? Dogs who eat dirt out of boredom may just need something else to occupy their brain power. Chew toys are a great help, as are training exercises and games. Here are some great ideas for games that will exercise your dog’s mind and body to prevent boredom.
- Is your dog getting enough attention? If you leave your dog home alone all day while you go to work, there’s a good chance that they just need a little attention. There are several solutions worth considering. You could ask a friend or neighbor to come visit with or walk your dog during the day, you could get another pet to keep your dog company, or you can bring your dog to doggy daycare a few days a week while you’re at work.
Should I Try and Stop My Dog from Eating Dirt?
No matter why your dog decides to eat dirt and soil, it’s not a good habit to encourage. For one thing, dirt may contain harmful bacteria that will make your dog sick.
Dirt may also contain sharp objects, toxins, and critters that could be harmful. Lastly, a dog that eats dirt is prone to digging and other destructive behavior.
Steps to Keep Your Dog from Eating Dirt
- Supervise your dogs when they are outside. Dogs who are left alone can get into all sorts of trouble.
- Restrict your dogs when you can’t watch them. Using a crate is a great way to prevent unwanted behaviors like eating dirt. If you’re unsure about crate-training, check out our ultimate guide.
- Use positive reinforcement training to curtail the behavior. Dogs eat dirt for all sorts of reasons, but many continue to eat dirt because they don’t know which behaviors are unacceptable. Positive reinforcement training is a great way to stop unwanted behaviors.
Some Dogs Eat the Strangest Things
Dirt is just one of the strange substances that some dogs consume. In fact, in the realm of unusual non-food items that dogs have been known to eat, dirt is not that unusual after all.
Veterinary Practice News holds a contest each year for the weirdest things veterinarians have found inside a dog’s stomach. The winning x-ray contained a lot more than dirt. Take a look:
Final Thoughts on Dogs Eating Dirt
If your dog occasionally scoops up a mouthful of dirt, you probably don’t need to be concerned, but if it becomes a habit, you should definitely consider medical and behavioral problems that might be causing them to indulge.
Getting dirty is just a part of being a dog, but eating dirt could expose your dog to harmful bacteria, toxins, or objects that could make them sick.
Supervise your dogs when they’re outside and take steps to keep them from ingesting the world beneath their feet.
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